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China’s post-reform urbanization: retrospect, policies and trends

Anthony G.O. Yeh, Jiang Xu, Kaizhi Liu

Working paper, 50 pages

This paper provides a broad and updated overview of urban growth in China, its determinants and its consequences. The main section of the paper quantifies key trends in the Chinese process of urbanization and links these to evolving policy stances, and especially to economic reform. The paper also describes how urban planning has evolved in unique directions over time in order to accommodate policy changes and how, as urbanization has accelerated and the urban economy has been restructured, new challenges have emerged. Regulations and laws have been issued and amended in response to the growing need for coordination and control of urban growth. However, there remain alarming issues such as the loss of agricultural land and related issues of environmental degradation. The anticipated large increase in rural migrants to cities, plus increasing car ownership and housing prices as a result of rising per capita income, will be growing challenges for city governments in China. The central point that must be recognized, however, is that urbanization has been central to China’s economic miracle, and needs to be improved but not inhibited.

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It is critically important to draw the right lessons from the BRICS, and both the successes and failures of their urbanisation strategies have much to teach the rest of the urbanising world. IIED worked to draw out some of these lessons.

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Learning about urbanisation from the BRICS

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